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  • A Coaching Dialogue: The Future of Executive Coaching

    and Leadership

    Val Williams, MCC and Joan Wright, MCC

    This article first appeared in the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, 2005, 3(3), 37-49. It can only be reprinted and distributed with prior written permission from Professional Coaching

    Publications, Inc. (PCPI). Email John Lazar at john@ijco.info for such permission.

    ISSN 1553-3735


    © Copyright 2005 PCPI. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Journal information:


    Purchases: www.pcpionline.com

  • 37

    A Coaching Dialogue

    A Note from the Co-Executive Editors

    The following article represents a special feature in the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations. In order to further the indepth exploration of central issues in the field of organizational coaching, IJCO will occa- sionally be offering extended two or three person interviews among senior members of the organizational coaching profession. Rather than featuring interviews with individual coaches (which IJCO often publishes), these Coach- ing Dialogue articles will feature interviews among two or more coaches, with the coaches themselves interview- ing one another.

    In this issue of IJCO, in the previous issue (2005/Number 2) and in the remaining 2005 issue of this journal, we offer dialogues among participants in two panels held at annual meetings of the International Coach Federation (ICF). Each of the interviews involves two or three senior coaches who have been working for many years in the field and have been active participants in the Executive Coaching Summit meetings which have been held each year for the past six years in conjunction with the ICF annual meeting. Proceedings from the first of these two panel presentations were published in the fourth issue of the 2004 IJCO. Proceedings from the second panel presentation will be published in the fourth issue of the 2005 IJCO.

    Following these two successful presentations, panel participants felt that it would be of value to continue the rich conversations begun during the two panel presentations by scheduling (and recording) two and three person interviews among the panelists.The first of these joint interviews, conducted by Mary Beth O’Neill and William Bergquist, was presented in Issue Two (2005). The second joint interview, conducted by Val Williams and Joan Wright, is published in abridged form in this issue of IJCO. The third joint interview (to be published in the fourth issue of 2005 IJCO) was conducted by Bob Johnson, Jeannine Sandstrom and Linda Miller. We believe you will find all three “Dialogues” to be sources of insight regarding the complex processes of organizational coaching.

    William Bergquist John Lazar


    The Future of Executive Coaching and Leadership

    Val Williams, MCC and Joan Wright, MCC

    This article is an abridged version of a joint interview executed in November of 2004 between senior executive coaches Val Williams and Joan Wright. The interview resulted from a commitment these senior executive coaches made months prior while serving on a seven-member team that organized and led two highly successful panel. With Val Williams in New York and Joan Wright in North Carolina, the coaches entered into a lively “virtual interview discussion” focused on the future. Specifically, they offered viewpoints and shared opinions on how the future will affect both executive coaches and executive leadership in the areas of strategic direction, leadership capacity, and work-life balance. We enter their conversation at the beginning.

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  • 38

    International Journal of Coaching in Organizations

    Val: Our topic is the future of coaching. We have focused on where our client needs and our executive coaching profession intersect. Joan, I can’t help but quote a sign that I used to see every day in the lobby of a building where I worked. It was etched in granite on the wall and it read, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it.”

    Joan: What a powerful quote.

    Val: It’s perfect for today. We will be talking about how to prepare for the future from two perspectives. Because coaching is a partnership, we are looking at the future from both sides of that partnership. Joan, you will be reflecting on the future from the perspective of the senior executive leader. Specifically, what will senior leaders have as challenges in the future? What will senior leaders’ needs be in the future? I will be looking at the future from the perspective of the executive coach. To serve senior leaders in the future, what is it that executive coaches are going to have to do to be prepared? Perhaps the bigger question, who will executive coaches need to be in the future? Joan, for the benefit of our readers, lets give a little summary concerning our respective backgrounds.

    The Coaches’ Backgrounds Joan: Val Williams is a Master Certified Coach and president of her own company, Professional Coaching and Training. Additionally, she comes to our executive coaching profession from real-world experience as an executive coach in the healthcare field, leading staffs as large as 700. You know Val, often what makes us credible is not just our experience. Our style also determines our credibility. In my mind, your style stands out because of the clarity and practical approach you create with your clients. You are all about helping leaders achieve their business results, while also developing the leaders that work for them. I believe that executives are drawn to your particular style, and so are coaches, myself included. Lastly, I think people need to know that you are a successful author, having written Get the Best Out of Your People and Yourself,1 Virtual Leadership,2 Executive Think Time,3and Executive Foundation.4 You should know that I have given several copies of one of these books to my clients, because I think clients find it useful to have simple models and tools for building outstanding leadership.

    Val: Thank you, Joan. I think everyone would appreciate knowing that you are also a Master Certified Coach, and president of your own company, O’Sullivan-Wright Consulting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Joan, what I like about your focus is that you help companies get results by doing one thing really well: attracting, developing, and keeping key leadership talent. I’m

    certain every senior executive knows how difficult that is today. You are also distinctive in our field because of your real-world experience. You have been a corporate exec with twenty-one years of leadership in Human Resources at various corporations. I am impressed by the fact that you have also been head of an executive leadership development program and I really appreciate the fact that your approach is to remind organizations that if they want to keep top talent, they have to create a culture that supports retention. I like your view that people don’t just leave companies. They leave poor leaders and cultures that don’t fit their values. This is an important viewpoint for senior executives.

    Three Questions from Senior Executive Clients

    Val: Now that we have shared a bit on our backgrounds, our next requirement should be explaining how we selected the future of executive coaching as a discussion topic. Since the future is such a huge topic, I like what we did, Joan. We decided to get our arms around it by addressing three prominent questions that we have received from senior executive clients. These are:

    * In the future, how will I, as a senior leader, set strategic direction?” * How will I develop leadership capacity to meet the needs that the future presents?” * How will I create the work-life balance that I’m going to need in order to be agile and resilient in meeting the demands of changes in the future?”

    The first question focuses on strategic direction. The second one involves the development of leadership capacity, and the third question addresses creating work-life balance. Before we explore each of these areas, why don’t we start by sharing our overall viewpoint on “the future?” Since you are looking at these questions from the perspective of the senior executive leader and I am looking at it from the perspective of the senior executive coach, can you start us off by sharing your observations about what leaders will be facing in the future?

    Future Challenges for Senior Executives Joan: In my mind, the future for leaders will be tougher than it has ever been. I think it is critical to understand several general themes and observations, as they relate to the future and how we, as coaches, must seek to be more relevant. I believe leaders will need to step up in a bigger, more dramatic way. Some leaders will need to fill the CEO role before they think they have to. We see this theme play out in the business headlines today. I don’t know whether you have had a chance to track with this, but more CEOs than ever before in our history are leaving at their own wishes or being asked to leave by their Boards. Second, I believe leaders are going to need to lead and manage a much more diverse

  • 39

    Ancient Wisdom and Coaching (2005/Issue Three)

    workforce. The demographics are changing as we speak. Something that gets my clients’ attention is when I share the statistic that in the next three to five ye